Buried in Grace.
Before we take a break from posting fortnightly for summer, I wanted to share some reflections about my walk with God from the last couple of months.
I last posted here around March when I was facing a weekly battle of taking myself to therapy to help untangle my brain. Week by week I walked through my life story and had some pretty big “oooooh riiiiight, of course” moments. That process brought me to a place of understanding more about how I interact with others, the church and God than I ever could have considered. With the grace of God my internal voice has become kinder and more compassionate towards myself and along with also attending the Freedom in Christ discipleship course, I feel a very real difference in my daily life- fear really has had to leave; because freedom is here!
The biggest event in the last while, in which lots of you shared, was my unplanned baptism on Easter Sunday. When Pastor Andrew said the words “anyone else for baptism?”, I knew it was the right thing to do. But the reason I knew, was because quietly in my car a few days earlier; God had asked me to be baptised on Easter Sunday. With this call coming only days before the service was due to take place I was caught up in logistics about not having come forward sooner. So quite simply I conveniently and intentionally forgot to get round to doing anything about it, quietly resolving to do it next time around. But God gave me another prompt- the Thursday before my baptism I received a word at small group, which really couldn’t have been more of a prompt to baptism unless someone had literally spelled out the words “You are getting baptised on Sunday” in front of my face. But still, I didn’t do anything about it.
Easter Sunday came and to be honest, I was glad I hadn’t spoken up because I’m not sure I would have turned up. The morning started with a heart broken, sobbing, wretching lament to God from my bathroom floor triggered by unexpected news. I forced myself to get up from the floor and get ready for church but I felt defeated and my need for Jesus magnified as I arrived at the service. I felt right back in that desert place where I had to choose to either succumb to emotions and circumstances or choose Jesus. I was determined as I took a seat right at the back of the service- I would choose Jesus. And when that call came, “any one else for baptism?”, who was I to say no? So dressed in my favourite dress I surrendered to the goodness of God and was buried and raised in his grace. Months on I remain in awe at the goodness of God on my baptism day. I was far from obedient, in fact I choose specifically not to be obedient. But God took my sinful disobedience, washed in the waters of grace and His will was still done and His goodness and faithfulness tangible.
In the weeks following baptism I felt compelled to ask God for further understanding of His goodness and faithfulness in my life. This quickly turned into asking God for a physical, tangible opportunity to lay down for the final time the acute hurts, frustrations and offence that have come from a year of recovering from shattered dreams. And surely, that moment came, looking nothing like I could or would have prayed for.
At small group last term we studied Bill Johnsons “God is Good” and the final session focused on the goodness of God in the middle of loss. I maintained some form of composure as Bill closed his final session saying these words about loss;
“Bury it deep in the soil of His grace.”
Conversation started around me about the content of the session but I couldn’t concentrate. I knew God was talking to me, asking me to go to a secret place and bury my hurts, offence and shattered dreams in the goodness of his grace. So right there I began to pray through those things silently. But I began to feel God telling me there was something more I was to do; God was asking me to do something I knew I didn’t want to do. He was asking me to quite literally bury something and he was asking me to do it as a tangible act of forgiveness. I was to bury my engagement and wedding rings.
And really, this wasn’t joyous news to me. I went home from small group and instantly thought about how I had probably heard God wrong. Let’s be real- who buries something in the ground that cost a lot of money and is the most expensive gift they’ve ever received? I convinced myself I could sell them and put the money towards a good cause or you know; a mortgage! But then came Sunday morning and the confirmation that selling the rings was not God’s plan. During worship Pastor Kenny shared the story about the women in the bible who anoints Jesus with expensive perfume to ready him for burial, in fact she walks into the room and breaks the perfume bottle above his head so it covers Jesus. The other people in the room become angry with the woman telling her she should have sold the perfume and given the money to they poor. But Jesus hushed the people and blessed the woman for laying down what she had to anoint him for burial. When I went home I pored over the story (Mark 14:1-10) and read of how tender Jesus was towards the woman. Jesus said what she had done was beautiful because she had done what she could with what she had. I knew I had to do what I could with what I had. It didn’t matter if what I was to bury was valuable- because I was doing so as an act of surrender to the grace of God.
As I continued to wrestle with my unexpected assignment I concluded; burial is beautiful. Often, we bury things to grow; seeds, plants, bulbs, and foundations of buildings. Things can’t grow until they are first buried. We bury our loved ones in peaceful respect and remembrance. Burial is intentional. And it’s a million miles away from angrily hurling the rings out of the living room window and into the canal like I often spoke of doing in more delicate, less rational moments. So I began to plan. I planned the burial intentionally, quickly and with the only person I was sure would understand- Mumma Frank. Any woman who can receive a hurried message detailing their daughters intention to bury her once most valuable possession in soil and can respond with only “of course we can do that honey” is exactly the adventure partner I needed. Mum went further than that, she also chose the perfect place, because ; “Jennifer, if you’re going to bury those rings- you may as well do it somewhere beautiful.”
So off we went, the rings wrapped in a shroud of beautiful gold organza and tied up with a neatly written prayer. When we reached the perfect place, I left my mum standing guard and went into a boggy field, dug a hole, stuffed the gold organza bag down into the ground and watched the rings be covered in soil. In this secret place I prayed, asking God for seven times more blessing in the place of all I had lost. There was no anger, no blame, no hurt; I felt only peace as I walked steadily and surely away from my treasure to continue my adventure. And I think about those rings sometimes and I smile, remembering only that every part of every shattered dream is buried in the soil of God’s unending grace.
“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal” John 12: 24-25.
Thank you Lord for forever, real and eternal life in your reckless, grace filled love.
Hi, I’m Carol-Anne, wife to Dan and mum to Kathryn, Hannah and Isla. For those who don’t know me particularly well, I would describe myself as an independent, slightly stubborn, compassionate person with leaky eyes.
I turn 40 next year (I know, I don’t look nearly that old ☺) and was looking for ideas to add to my 40 things to do before I turn 40 list and it was suggested that I could write a blog post. It was not something that I added to my list with particular joy as it meant that I would actually have to open up to the blogosphere and talk about me, my feelings and my relationship with God. Talking about myself and my feelings isn’t something that I am particularly good at, so this is a massive challenge for me. However, I’ve known all along what God wanted me to write about, but I have put it off and put it off until I received a text a couple of weeks ago telling me that my blog post would be published on the 9th of June! Well, there was no backing out now….
We moved into our house in August 2016 and I happily drove our car up and down our drive many times over 18 months without incident. One Wednesday morning, that changed. Isla and I got in the car ready to go to rhyme time. I reversed down the drive with Isla talking away to me as she pretty much always does. As I was reversing I realised I hadn’t quite lined the car up properly and promptly set about trying to right the angle of the car. However, somehow, I misjudged what I needed to do and the front nearside wheel of our car slipped off the drive and down the path between the drive and our house.
I sat for a minute trying to work out what had happened and then jumped out the car to see what damage I had done. I couldn’t see any damage, but also couldn’t see how on earth I could possibly get the car back up on the drive.
I phoned Dan who was at work, and as I am prone to do, the leaky eyes started. I couldn’t quite explain to him how the car was ‘parked’ so ended up video calling him so he could see. As we talked through a couple of options of how to get the car back on the drive, one of his first responses was, ‘Phone Lyndsey and get her to come over and support you.’ I thought to myself, but I’m doing okay (other than the leaky eyes), so why would I need someone to come over and support me? Anyway, Lyndsey had safely made it off her driveway and was at rhyme time so I couldn’t possibly phone her. I’d already sent her a message saying I wouldn’t make it to rhyme time with a picture of my badly parked car, so I knew she would pick it up when she could. But I wasn’t going to disturb her morning by phoning. Dan and I talked some more and came up with a few ideas to try. Meanwhile, Lyndsey picked up the message and told me she was coming over, and, knowing my lovely friend, she probably told me off for not phoning her.
I was reminded that day, and so often since, that God didn’t just create us and then abandon us here on earth. He does not expect us to have to deal with life on our own, so He provides people around us who love, care and want to support us. We see this right from the beginning of the Bible as God created Adam and, before too long, said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is right for him.” (Genesis 2:18). Right from the beginning, God made us to be in relationships with others. He created us to need. So, by allowing others to help us, we are enabling them to follow God’s instruction.
Galatians 6:2 says that we should “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ.” By being there for those around us, we too are fulfilling God’s law. While God should always be our most important relationship, I believe He has provided some very special relationships so we can share His love here on earth. And for that, I will be eternally thankful.
So if you, like me, are one of those strong independent women who feel like they are strong enough to deal with everything that life throws at them and then hides away when it actually turns out that you’re not actually as capable of dealing with everything at once, then please remember this: God is there for you, He’s looking out for you and as well as His loving, listening ear and unfailing love, He has provided a whole family of His people down here to help you out. We just need to be brave enough to reach out…
“By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three stranded rope isn’t easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (The Message)
In case you’re wondering what happened with the car, I phoned our very friendly local garage, and after trying to explain to them unsuccessfully what I had done, and that, no, driving back the way I came would not work, they sent a couple of mechanics down to the house. I am reliably informed that as those mechanics sat in their van outside the house they were laughing very hard. At least it meant that by the time they rang the doorbell they were able to talk to me with a (fairly) straight face. They soon rectified the situation with a jack and a plank of wood and amazingly they quickly checked it over and told me that, somehow, I had done no damage to the car whatsoever. I was to pop down to the garage later to square up with the owner. As you can imagine, the story had been shared all over that garage and I am now famous in the garage as the person who parked their car in their garden. I still see the smirk on their face whenever I have to take the car into the garage now.
Thoughts, experiences, and encouragement from the ladies of Falkirk Vineyard.